Review - The Song of Achilles
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Format: eBook (Kindle)
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date of publication: 20th September 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars
“Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.”
The Song of Achilles begins with the protagonist Patroclus, a young prince struggling with meeting the high and unrealistic expectations set for him by his father, King Menoitius. When he accidentally kills his bully and fails to lie his way out of it, he is exiled by his father. Fortunately for him, he is fostered by King Peleus of Phthia where he meets his beloved Achilles. The boys grow up in Phthia and in Mount Pelion under the guidance of Phoenix the counselor and Chiron the Centaur. How their love blossoms and how grownup responsibilities destroy everything that the boys hold dear is what makes up the story.
I love a book that is written from the point of view of the underdog. Patroclus, the unassuming sidekick to Achilles’ godlike divinity is given a voice of his own. His struggles are struggles that all of us face- to learn, to grow, to have his own identity. However, he understands that Achilles is destined for greatness and does not stand in his way nor demand anything in return for his undying devotion to his cause. The innocence of the love that grew between Patroclus and Achilles was beautiful to watch. Thetis’ treatment of Achilles and later of Pyrrhus was sad to observe. It seemed that all she cared about was their fame which would indirectly reflect on her. Her disapproval of Patroclus is something that we see even in modern day parents. However, she redeemed herself in my eyes in the last few pages.
I loved Achilles throughout the book. He was aware of his greatness but treated everyone with fairness, was not conceited nor was he entitled. However, he broke my heart with his treatment of the Greeks at the end of the book and I blamed him entirely for what happened to Patroclus. The interaction of the Kings and Princes reminded me of Game of Thrones but this was more believable. Odysseus was one of my favorite characters and I wish he had more roles to play. I was picturing the movie Troy with Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana for the period costumes and landscapes.
I was glad for the Character Glossary at the end of the book. We have all heard of these Greek Gods, Goddesses and Heroes but the story that we know slightly differs from the author’s. This is explained at the end of the book and gave me closure. I was glad that the author stuck to the real story. That is, after all, what historical fiction is all about. I was impressed with the handling of the LGBT theme in that era. It is very sad to see that what was considered normal in the 1st Century AD is considered by many as abnormal in the 21st. The book is fast-paced and difficult to put down and the story will stay with me for a long time.
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